Africa must take the quick wins on health – the time to act is now

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Ill health and disease can sometimes bring personal tragedy, and they can also be extremely expensive. Treatment may require costly medicines, for example, but caring for a sick person requires time and effort too. Malaria carries a “growth penalty” of up to 1.3 percent in some African countries. And over several years, these added up to substantial differences in GDP.

Conversely, long-term investments in health bring high returns, improving productivity and educational outcomes. A recent study, which calls for an increase in domestic financing, notes that an average increase in annual per capita spending of US$21-36 over a five year period could – in year five alone: save the lives of 3.1 million Africans; prevent between 3.8 and 5.1 million children from stunting; and yield economic benefits of as much as US$100 billion.

Africa is a continent with impressive natural resource wealth. According to last year’s Africa Progress report, if the continent’s oil, gas, and mining sectors can be properly managed, then this should create more revenue that government can and should use to spend on social sectors such as health.

These images look at some of the key health issues for Africa – together with the solutions.